Serial lawfare paralyses the ANC

The party’s December elective conference may be marred by internal disarray (Rogan Ward/M&G)

The party’s December elective conference may be marred by internal disarray (Rogan Ward/M&G)

NEWS ANALYSIS

It was open lawfare in the ANC this week, with the leadership battles moving from meeting halls into courtrooms as more ANC branches alleged there had been irregularities. This comes just three months before the party’s elective conference in December.

On Thursday, disgruntled party members in the North West and Eastern Cape were back in court, alleging irregularities in internal nomination processes.
This came days after the Pietermaritzburg high court judgment, which declared the 2015 KwaZulu-Natal ANC conference unlawful and void.

In Mahikeng, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe, the party’s provincial leadership and Bojanala regional officials contested an interdict seeking to prevent the party from holding a regional conference. The ANC branches in the region argued that internal processes were rigged leading up to the conference.

In the Eastern Cape, a branch member approached the Mthatha high court to apply for the OR Tambo region’s 2015 conference to be nullified because it was not properly constituted. The case risks the further postponement of the Eastern Cape’s provincial conference, which is due to be held at the end of this month.

In Johannesburg, the ANC’s top six officials met on Thursday to discuss the implications of the Pietermaritzburg high court judgment. The Mail & Guardian understands that they have summoned the KwaZulu-Natal provincial executive committee to Luthuli House on Friday to suggest a way forward.

The party is also scheduled to hold a special national executive committee meeting next week to decide the fate of the KwaZulu-Natal provincial executive committee (PEC) .

ANC branches aligned to former ANC premier Senzo Mchunu want the PEC under the leadership of Sihle Zikalala to be dissolved and a task team to take over until a new provincial conference is convened.

But Zikalala and his PEC members, some of whom have endorsed Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to be the next ANC president, seem prepared to fight to remain in their position, pending an anticipated appeal.

In their response to the judgment, the KwaZulu-Natal youth and women’s leagues outlined what they saw to be errors in the judgment, which they claim was based on “absurdity”.

A legal challenge will seek to argue that the court erred in its interpretation of a clause in the ANC constitution that governs the frequency of provincial conferences. It will seek to prove that the ruling failed to consider a “number of realities” affecting the ANC as a political party. It will also challenge the court’s interpretation of the powers of the PEC and its reading of a rule in the ANC constitution that stipulates its powers and where they are derived from.

Meanwhile, Mchunu’s supporters plan to ask Luthuli House to review decisions taken by the Zikalala-led executive. They will ask for the PEC to be disbanded as well as the executive of the eThekwini region, whose conference it oversaw. They will also push for the general councils in the Moses Mabhida, Harry Gwala and Musa Dladla regions to be nullified.

The Mchunu group will also challenge the disciplinary decisions taken by the PEC and the branch general meeting processes it ran.

Another bone of contention will be the candidate nomination process, and the list that emerged from it, before last year’s local government elections and the decision to reshuffle the provincial Cabinet, which the group will ask to be reviewed.

The Mchunu camp will also push for Luthuli House to deal with the purge of Mchunu’s supporters in provincial government, including the Cabinet reshuffle in which he and several MECs were axed. The subsequent removal of high-ranking officials will also be challenged. They are also likely to ask the court for a declaratory order forcing the PEC to resign pending any further legal process.

In Durban on Wednesday, the province’s youth, women’s and veterans’ leagues and regional leaders vowed to defy an instruction by the ANC secretary general to meet the officials before taking any further action.

Political analyst Somadoda Fikeni said the many ANC legal challenges signified the progressive decline of internal democracy as well as the party’s leadership’s failure to deal with problems at their inception.

“That is occasioned by factionalism that now has become the DNA of the organisation. Once you allow factionalism, it then leads to the elevation of individuals over systems, processes and values. This leads to patronage networks, which by definition are an infrastructure of corruption,” said Fikeni, echoing fears that the legal challenges might lead to the December conference being postponed. 

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